Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said today the government will demand that virtually all federal public servants get a COVID-19 shot — and warned of workplace repercussions for those who defy the rule.
Speaking at a campaign stop in Markham, Ont., Prime Minister Trudeau pushed back against Conservative claims that the government’s vaccination policy is not all that different from what their leader, Erin O’Toole, has proposed to ensure the safety of federal workplaces.
“We’re unequivocal that civil servants must be vaccinated. If anyone doesn’t have a legitimate medical reason for not getting fully vaccinated — or chooses to not get vaccinated — there will be consequences,” Prime Minister Trudeau said, without explaining what sort of punishment a bureaucrat could face for shunning the vaccine.
The Treasury Board Secretariat — the central government agency that is nominally the employer of all public servants — posted a letter online recently saying bureaucrats who refuse vaccination can instead undergo rapid testing before starting a shift. Conservative Leader O’Toole, who is firmly opposed to mandatory vaccination, has proposed a similar policy, saying all Canadians should be allowed to choose whether they get vaccinated.
Conservative Leader O’Toole said that, rather than requiring that public servants and travellers get the shot, a government led by him would require them to pass a rapid test before going into work or, in the case of travellers, boarding a bus, train, plane or ship.
The Treasury Board yanked the message from its website late Monday after the Conservatives held it up as evidence that Trudeau’s hard line on vaccinations was all for show, and accused him of trying to mislead Canadians about how the vaccine mandate would be enforced.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he supports disciplining the unvaccinated ‘in rare cases’
Prime Minister Trudeau is not alone in proposing penalties for federal workers who refuse a shot. Speaking at an event promoting made-in-Canada personal protective equipment (PPE), NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said today that while public servants have a right to choose not to get vaccinated, “there will be consequences” for those who don’t.
“Our goal is to protect people and to keep people safe,” he said.
Mr. Singh said, under his plan, an unvaccinated federal employee who works in a public-facing role could be moved out of their job.
“For employees who still refuse to be vaccinated, without a reason related to health status, we would expect that the collective agreement would be followed. All collective agreements include a process for progressive discipline — up to and including termination. Discipline should always be a last resort, but may be necessary in rare cases to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” he said.
People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier called the mandate “immoral, illegal and unconstitutional.”
“We believe in freedom of choice. Everyone must be free to decide whether they want a vaccine or not — with informed consent. We’ll fight against these Draconian measures,” he said.
Mr. Bernier, who is unvaccinated, has been among the most vocal opponents of COVID-19 related measures like lockdowns and masking. In June, Bernier was arrested in Manitoba for defying public health orders.
“I don’t want to be in a society where people are asking, ‘Show me your papers.’ We will have two classes of citizens. That must change, we are not in a communist country,” Mr. Bernier said.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet was also skeptical of the policy’s constitutionality.
“I don’t think the federal government can dictate that,” he said. “That is the power and responsibility of Quebec.”
In fact, Ottawa has authority over people who work in federally regulated sectors.
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